The Creative Process: Reflections on the Invention of Art. Front Cover. Brewster Ghiselin. University of California Press, – Art – pages. The creative process refers to the sequence of thoughts and actions that are involved in the production of new work that is both original and valuable in its. The Creative Process has ratings and 18 reviews. Brewster Ghiselin To ask other readers questions about The Creative Process, please sign up.

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Berkeley and Los Angeles: Eliot in Selected Poems, by Marianne Moore, Koteliansky and Philip Tomlinson. PREFATORY NOTE OOME of the selections in this anthology are intact, some are excerpts drawn from contexts of less pertinent material, and some have been more or less reduced by excisions, mainly as a means of conserving space but sometimes in order to remove material not essential to the purpose of this book.

Omis- sion of material has been indicated by use of ellipsis periods in the text. In editing such passages, it has not always been possible to preserve the full esthetic integrity of the original, but utmost care has been exercised in preserving the import. A story told of the wording habits of Euripides may be apocryphal; but both Plato and Aristotle had something to say of the creative process, and from time to time during the next two thousand years other writers touched upon it.

Early in the nineteenth century interest in it increased. Foe’s “Philoso’phy of Compo- sition” became an incitement to further gghiselin. Interest in the subject is still growing. Besides a good deal of objective discussion of the creative process, chiefly by philosophers, psychologists, and other scientists, a large amount of com- ment and description of individual processes and insights has accumulated, most of it fragmentary, some of it not perfectly reliable.

Among these mate- rials the most illuminating and entertaining are the more full and systematic descriptions of invention and the reflections upon it made by the men and women most in position to observe and understand, the thinkers and artists themselves. Introduction i Some of the reasons for attention to the creative process are practical. One incentive for compiling this anthology, a selection of some of the more revealing discussions of invention, is that insight into the processes of inven- tion gghiselin increase the efficiency of almost any developed and active intelli- gence.

Not even the most vigorously creative minds always find their way quickly to efficiency. Some of the richest and most useful are scattered and out-of-the-way. There is, moreover, no large collection of statements about the creative process that is much more than a compendium of fragments. It has therefore seemed worth while to bring together some of the longer and more complete source materials, exhibiting a fairly full range of methods in the various fields of activity.

The Creative Process: Reflections on Invention in the Arts and Sciences

Having read through such a selection of writings one will not simply have observed the fundamentals, which are all but inescapable. One should have acquired a sense of the bearing of these fundamentals, a feeling for the whole process, and a lively sense of the divergencies of individual approach and procedure.

Today, when widespread, deep, and rapid changes are taking place in the very structure of our lives, whether we desire it or not, and when still other changes seem necessary to preserve us from disaster, understanding of the creative process is particularly important because provess can assist in the control of these difficult developments.

The creative process is the process of change, of development, of evolution, in the organization of subjective life. The inventive minds gyiselin whose activity procses evolution has been initiated and in large part accomplished have usually been the only ones much concerned with it.

Their efforts have rarely been sustained by society, and have sometimes even been hindered. There is no way of estimating how much the development of humanity has been lamed by such delay and waste. Simply the self-interest of mankind calls for a more general effort to foster the in- vention of life.

And that effort can be guided intelligently only by insight into the nature of the creative process. Opening our minds to their insights and putting them to what use they may have, we may assist in the creative process, which completes itself only as the products of invention transform the environment the inventor breathes.

The prolonged failure of traditional means in dealing with this problem does not prove those means useless. It does strongly suggest their inadequacy. For, as knowledge of the creative process dr: The only reasonable step, at this point, then, is to act upon the supposition that our problems in world crisis, as at other times, may be soluble only creatively that is, by a profound and thorough alteration of our inner life and of the outer forms in which life finds expression and support.


Certainly some changes are requisite. If it does not come brewsteg, if the limiting forms of our consciousness, the sometimes too-rigid patterns of current thought and feeling, are not shaped quickly to meet the needs of life, there is grave danger that they will simply continue to possess us until too late.

The Creative Process

But the difficulties are considerable. Because every creative act overpasses the established order in some way and in some degree, it is lively ghjselin first to appear eccentric to most men. An inventor ordi- narily must begin in isolation and draw the group to himself only as it is discovered, sometimes very slowly, that he has invented some part of what they are in need of. At the beginning of his struggle for realization his originality may achieve no more striding manifestation than an extreme ghiselinn with established order.

It was rather that he had not found that expression of his impulses which would satisfy him. Because he hasn’t got just that which he needs in order to be creative.

Because the fate of circumstances has reduced him to a ghisslin of nothingness. Something is alive in me: There seems no immediate way to do so.

The criterion is the proof of production by the artist, if he is Me to find himself. It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust which creates Goethe! This is why the creative urge may be at first so extremely vague as hardly to identify itself. The terms of its expression are not to be found in the world, but must be invented: Even to the creator himself, the earliest effort may seem to involve a com- merce with disorder.

For the creative order, which is an extension of life, is not an elaboration of the established, but a movement beyond the estab- lished, or at the least a reorganization of it and often of elements not in- cluded in creativs. The first need is therefore to transcend the old order. New life comes always from outside our world, as we commonly conceive that world.

This is the reason why, in order to invent, one must yield to the indeterminate within him, or, more precisely, to certain ill-defined impulses which seem to be of the very texture of the ungoverned fullness which John Livingston Lowes calls “the surging chaos of the unexpressed!

For it is organic, dynamic, full of ten- sion and tendency. What is absent from it, except in the decisive act of creation, is determination, fixity, any commitment to one resolution or an- other of the whole complex of its tensions. Creation begins typically with a vague, even a confused excitement, some sort of yearning, hunch, or other preverbal intimation of approaching or potential resolution.

Stephen Spender’s expression is exact: In some invention there is consciousness of a stage yet more primitive, a condition of complete indecision in the words of Isadora Duncan, “a state of complete suspense” in which nothing tends toward determination, nothing of a particular character seems to be implied, in which, therefore, all is still apparently free.

This state in no way involves or suggests irresolution. Paradoxically it often appears as an enhancement of certainty. It is as if the mind delivered from preoccupation with particulars were given into secure possession of its whole substance and guiselin. This yielding to the oceanic consciousness may be a distracting delight, which as Jacques Maritain has pointed out can divert the worker from formal achieve- ment.

In this extreme the experience verges upon the religious; but it is rarely so intense or so pure, and, when it is, it is not often so enduring a pre- occupation as to constitute a real threat to performance.

More often it de- fines itself as no more than a sense of self-surrender to an inward necessity inherent in something larger than the ego and taking precedence over the established order. Frequently ghisflin creative worker experiences first neither this sheer readi- ness for the new nor that vague presentiment brewsetr some novel development felt to be specific but as yet undefined.

Spontaneity is common, but what is given is usually far from com- plete. Commonly the new element appears simultaneously with some such vague intimation of further development as I have described.

Though Poe laid claim to it, his singular testimony is not enough to establish it as a fact. More of less of such automatism is reported by nearly every worker who has much to say about his processes, and no creative process has been demon- strated to be wholly free from it.


Anton Chekhov has insisted that only a lunatic would create quite auto- matically: Therefore if an artist boasted to me of having written a story without a previously settled design, but by inspiration, I should call him a lunatic.

By the next morning I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian func- tions, those which come from the hyper geometric series; Procesa had only to bhiselin out the results, which toof but a few hours. If he is right in supposing that what brewdter witnessed was typical of processes ordinarily sub- liminal, then some part of his creative process a classical example was automatic. In his preface to The Ambassadors Henry James records some conscious production so smooth and inevitable as to suggest an unconscious, wholly automatic development if consciousness had not fully operated: As the case completed itself he had in fact, from a good way behind, to catch up with them, breathless and a little flurried, as he cretaive could’ 1 From this account of spontaneous and involuntary production in a state of heightened awareness, it would appear that automatic invention, far from being a sign of diminished, imperfectly functioning consciousness, is a healthy activity supplementary to conscious invention and in ghiseiln way incon- sistent with it.

The Creative Process: Reflections on Invention in the Arts and Sciences by Brewster Ghiselin

The automatic functioning in invention is, rather than an inferior or suspect substitute or an exalted onean extension of activity beyond the limited scope of that which is shaped by insight, the conscious activity, which is an observant adjustment of exactly appreciated means to known ends. The notion that automatic and t conscious production are somehow op- posed is not altogether groundless, however. The constructive nature of the automatic functioning argues the existence of an activity analogous to con- sciousness though hidden from observation, and we have therefore termed it unconscious.

The negative prefix suggests an opposition, but it is no more than verbal, not any sort of hostility or incompatibility being implied by it, but simply the absence of consciousness. Yet a real opposition between the conscious and the unconscious activity does subsist in the limitations which the former tends to creatvie on the latter.

The established procesz of con- sciousness have a way of persisting, particularly when they are part of a scheme, and of determining behavior, including a large part of that which is unconscious or imperfectly conscious.

If this were not so our psychic lives would of course have little stability. But this conservative tendency hinders the introduction of anything fun- damentally new. The first impulse toward new order in the pyschic life is therefore, as it must be, an impulse away from the clearly determined, from all that is most easily attended ghiselinn and that most forcefully imprints brwester upon the attention.

That is, it is an impulse away from the conscious ac- tivity already in motion or potential, which would simply reduce it to itself. In the sense of this aversion, it is an impulse toward unconsciousness. This is the real opposition to which I have referred, this reaction against one an- other of the old order which is more or less creativr realizable in the process of attention and the potential new order developing, cgeative often competing against it, in obscurity.

It is not the two activities which are opposed, the conscious and the unconscious, but the ‘principles acting in them. Introduction 7 The opposition is often dramatized in objective situations, as when van Gogh agonizes in a morbid inactivity because none of the current ways of expression can give ghiselinn to the nameless life within him for which he has not yet found a path.

As long as he tries to move in the old ways, he is frus- trated. For the prcess of desire falls upon the unrealized rather than on the explicit elements in his psychic life. Even brrwster an artist has found his way, the opposition between the new and the old persists, for the unrealized continues to draw him. This is true also of the scientist and creative man of action, of all inventors, who may be said to be creqtive restless group.

It has been pointed out by Jacques Hadamdrd that the more vigorous creative minds among the scientists are often in- clined to drop a project when the less inventive begin to swarm upon it, and to go on to something fresh. Artists do this too. So Ezra Pound abandoned Imagism and other movements.

Pablo Picasso creates movements but does not lead them.